The Union health ministry on Friday said that the severity of the Omicron variant of coronavirus in India could be low because of the pace of vaccination in the country.
Two cases of Omicron were detected in India on Thursday. The strain has been designated as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.
On Friday, the health ministry released a statement to address the frequently asked questions about Omicron – like the effectiveness of the vaccine against the new strain and the third wave.
Here are some queries addressed by the ministry:
Will there be a third wave in India because of the Omicron variant?
The health ministry said that given Omicron’s characteristics, it is likely to spread to more countries, including India. “However, the scale and magnitude of the rise in cases and most importantly the severity of disease that will be caused is still not clear,” it said.
Will the existing vaccines work against the Omicron strain?
There is no evidence to suggest that the existing vaccines do not work on Omicron variant, the ministry said. It added that the vaccines are expected to offer protection against severe disease.
“Vaccination with available vaccines is crucial,” the health ministry said. “If eligible, but not vaccinated, one should get vaccinated.”
What precautions should people take?
The health officials said that the precautions employed during the first and second wave of Covid-19 in India would also apply in combating the Omicron variant. They have recommended wearing masks, getting the vaccine on priority, maintaining physical distancing, and ensuring good ventilation inside homes and buildings.
How is India responding to the new variant?
The situation is being monitored closely and suitable guidelines are being issued from time to time, the officials said.
“Meanwhile, the scientific and medical community is geared up for developing and deploying diagnostics, carrying out genomic surveillance, generating evidence about viral and epidemiologic characteristics, and development of therapeutics,” the health ministry said.
In Karnataka, where two cases of Omicron variant of coronavirus were found on Thursday, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai held a meeting to discuss the Covid-19 situation in the state. The Karnataka government is expected to introduce new guidelines and standard operating procedures after the meeting.
Can the currently used diagnostics methods detect the Omicron strain?
Since a particular gene in the Omicron variant of coronavirus is heavily mutated, genomic sequencing is required to detect the strain, the health ministry said. RT-PCR tests will only state if an individual has contracted the virus.